The Brink

I remember the three and a half mile hikes we used to take down into Feather Falls… all the way down hill. When you came to the overlook, a large wooden deck placing you just over the edge of the canyon so you could witness the Feather River plunge to the rock floor 640 feet below, there was a secret.  If you did not turn left to walk out onto the overlook, there was a secret trail to the right. No one knew it was there because it began three feet higher up a hill than the ground of the standard trail, obscured by bushes and long dry weeds.

When you clamored up that first impossible step, the trail went on and as you walked you’d see signs—warning signs that read: Caution, Brink of Falls! Stay behind the Fence! And sure enough there was an eight foot tall chain-link fence erected long enough ago that the rust had set in and it was no longer (if ever) a pretty sight. But the brave and the anarchist hikers who came before us saw fit to take bolt cutters to many of the fence’s weak points and cut wide gates to freedom. So those of us with whatever gusto it takes, could go right up to the brink of the falls. From there, the roar was deafening. But I found an even better secret.

If one were to hike up the river, just around the next bend, one would come across a fallen tree. A giant of a fir tree that had plummeted straight across the river who knows how many centuries ago. But it still had its bark, petrified somewhat by the weather and it was a wide and welcoming bridge to the other side of the river.

Once you crossed this mammoth tree-bridge, you were free to explore a land that many have never set foot upon.

Turning left and heading back toward the brink of the falls, there was an unusual rock formation. It was the peak of the hill and from the ground it rose up about ten feet from the trail. Half way up, a solid rock slice of bread (or so it appeared) was slightly removed from the mother rock, like a piece of toast sticking out of a sideways toaster. Behind this slice of stone where it used to be connected to the mother rock, was a one foot by two foot hole from one side of the pyre to the other. This produced a shelf where the rock had slid out a little bit over the canyon. It was possible to step up onto this rock, take seat and dangle your feet over the edge. It was the best seat in the house.

Looking to your left you’d witness 4,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Feather River fly out over the brink of the falls and down to the canyon floor. At about the eleven o’clock position you could see the observation deck and all the tiny tourists marveling at the site just to your left. And straight out westward you’d see the canyon stretch for miles, the river winding its way thru the gorge which sliced through the Sierra Nevada mountains eons ago.

Here’s what I’ve learned from those trips to the brink of the falls; this feeling of nearing the brink, which contains a large measure of anticipation, readiness, and pure adventure is a valuable feeling. It is a feeling you can bring to bear on any one of life’s many situations. It is a state of being. The first time I ventured up onto that secret trail, I had no idea what lie before me. I anticipated something big and very possibly dangerous. The closer I got to the brink of the falls the more excited I got to see what was there, to take in the sights and the smells and the sounds of all Nature’s fury as an entire river came rushing off a precipice and fell through mid-air only to crash on the rocks below and continue its journey toward the sea.

Sometimes we can get in touch with that feeling of excitement and adventure without the hike to the falls. We can feel that way about a project we are about to embark upon.

“The state of mind revered most by the Muse is a mind filled to the brim with notions of adventure.”

Just imagine the brink. Imagine nearing the brink and see what kinds of inspiration find you.

We’re On a Mission From God

One of the best lines in all the movies I’ve ever seen was delivered by Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers.

“We’re on a mission from God.”

Such a powerful statement and most likely true in our lives much more often than we suspect.

But growing up Christian there were very mixed signals about uttering such words. To think of oneself as in league with God in any way was considered blasphemous. Some of us were led to believe we are far too profane to ever have a relationship with God. And I see solid evidence of the same admonition happening today. It’s like walking on eggshells when you can’t express your feelings about the relationship you have with God outside of an accepted set of phrases.

When I first read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” I began to wonder if he didn’t have a very good point.

What I’m trying to say is that we, as creators, often feel compelled to create. Although I cannot claim to know, there may be a strong chance that those compulsions come directly from God. So when we’re making what we’re making, we may well be on a mission from God.

I want you to walk away convinced that it is more than okay to be on a mission from God. I want you to be able to feel it when inspiration comes barreling thru your heart and you feel that ultra-conviction to follow that inspiration and create what has been delivered to you to create. And then I want you to be able to proclaim that mission to anyone who will listen, because I believe that is exactly what’s happening. You’re on a mission from God!

Say it often. Feel it. Believe it. Even if only to yourself… we really are on a mission from God.

…to boldly act on inspiration: The Challenge of Trusting Our Own Intuition

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I have forever been fascinated by unlimited potentiality being wrangled into a single thing by us humans.
I have a list of six values that I carry with me everywhere I go. One of them is:

“Creativity: to be creative, innovative, and to boldly act on inspiration.”

It’s easy for me to be creative. It comes naturally to me. And let’s face it, being innovative is in the same wheel-house as being creative.

But once I am inspired to create, I must brave up before I can actually create something. I have to “boldly act” on the inspiration I receive. If I create something, chances are it will find its way into the public eye. And what if people think my creation sucks and they criticize it? Or what if I’ve overestimated my skills and I really can’t create the piece I’ve imagined? For some of us there is always at least a slight level of trepidation present in the process of creating. One of two things can go wrong; either someone will judge my work as unworthy or I will fail in my attempt to create it.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the place where creativity comes from. A place where the spiritual part of ourselves meets our physical apparatus. Where idea meets execution. I have forever been fascinated by unlimited potentiality being wrangled into a single thing by us humans.

The word “inspire” comes from the Latin word, “inspirare” which means to breathe fire into; to inflame or excite. The “spir” portion of the word inspire means the same as the “spir” portion of the word spirit. So we must go to none other than the very spark of life to find inspiration.

While pondering these concepts, I began to see a parallel between inspiration and intuition. They both come from the same invisible realm… and I don’t always trust what I cannot see. I think this is why so many times we catch ourselves saying, “I had a feeling I should have {fill the blank}.” We find out we should have trusted our intuition after the fact. Once the situation plays itself out, we see our intuition was right on the money. But before the situation plays itself out, we’re not so sure. It seems like guess-work.

It is the same with our creations. After we have boldly acted on inspiration and see the fruits of our labor, we know we did the right thing. But before we see the result of our creative endeavor, we’re not so sure.

If this is the crux of the problem with trusting ourselves, and indeed I believe it is, what are we to do? How can we trust our intuition and boldly act on inspiration more often?

There was a Scottish mountain climber who summed it up nicely for me when he spoke about commitment. William Hutchison Murray (18 March 1913 – 19 March 1996) had this to say in his book: The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):

“But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money—booked a sailing to Bombay.

This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

So I gather from all this pondering that a creative person needs only trust their intuition and commit to the act of creation regardless of any fear.  This is actually the definition of courage.

cour·age
/ˈkərij/
noun
The ability to do something that frightens one.

So a little boldness is required. And a commitment to our very Spirits.

We can do this. We can turn our backs on the nagging self-doubts about our abilities to perform, or the judgement of our works by others and boldly act on any inspiration that hits us. I say we do it! What say ye?

The Three Causes of Inspiration

The Three Causes of Inspiration:

  • Spirit
  • The Nature of a Thing
  • Heritage

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Inspiration, as fickle as some believe it is, can actually be ordered up like something on Amazon. This truth may shock you if you’ve bought into the farce about inspiration being elusive. For a long time now I’ve been trying to bust the inspiration hoax and show just how readily available inspiration truly is. People have been asking how. Give us an example, they say.

I’m assuming there are as many examples of how to get inspired as there are grains of sand on the world’s beaches, but I have ferreted out three of them which I personally admire and intend to use for years to come. Hopefully they will benefit you as well.

Before we get straight into the substance of my favorite three causes of inspiration, I’d like to point out one small caveat: Even with Amazon Prime membership you still end up waiting at least two days for your package to arrive. Being inspired is as easy as ordering something from Amazon, but it still takes a little time to “kick in”. So practice allowing for that as you test these theories.

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1. Spirit

spirit

This inspiration comes directly to you. It is sometimes called an idea. It can come in many forms: through a dream, from a sudden thought in the shower, or an out and out vision.

Since this kind of inspiration is directly from Spirit, it is the purest and most sought-after form of inspiration. It therefore contains the most magic. Original creative ideas are authentic expressions of Spirit so they often become the cornerstone of creative movements.

But the key to using Spirit as a source for inspiration is simply to pay attention to it. Everybody has one—built-in, but few people lend their own spirit much credence. If you acknowledge your spirit and show the least bit of reverence for it, if you accept (at least to a small degree) your own shamanic powers, your spirit will reward you with inner knowing and intuition that you may not have noticed otherwise. So be kind and attentive to your spirit and you’ll experience more inspiration.

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2. The Nature of a Thing

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This inspiration is prevalent and often mistakenly regarded as the only source of inspiration. People will say that some thing inspired them.

Sometimes it is the texture of the thing, or the color, or even the smell. Sometimes it is the sound of a song or a wild animal or an industrial noise that inspires us. The noise they were inspired to use on the TV show LOST for the computer that had to be reset every 108 minutes was the beep a cash register makes when you scan an item.

This is far from the only source of inspiration, but it is one of the funnest sources to indulge in. Using your senses, you dwell upon the nature of a given item and if it appeals to you, there is often a degree of inspiration that comes along with it.

OPA is the acronym I’ve given Other People’s Artwork. OPA can be a powerful source of inspiration. You can be inspired by someone else’s creative endeavor and boldly act on that inspiration without copying it. Lord knows we should never condone plagiarism. But if you say to yourself, “I’d like to create something like that, only better.” then you are doing more than creating… you are becoming a positive cog in the wheel of evolution—you are advancing our civilization. And you are creating something brand new. So whatever you do, never shy away from being inspired by other art and other artists. Do your own thing based on the inspiration you feel from the nature of their art.

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3. Heritage

heritage

This inspiration comes from your own personal heritage. But I do not mean your race or nationality, although those can also inspire. What I mean is the heritage that you have cultivated since you were born. Your own personal heritage that was formed by your preferences alone. These are all the things that have influenced you or warmed your heart in your lifetime.

I was raised in the mountains of Northern California and I was therefore exposed to all the lore of the 49’ers, the gold prospectors that traveled from back east in search of the Motherlode. So the old west was a big influence on me.

Natural surroundings gave me a great appreciation for the beauty of nature. After witnessing the clarity and purity of high-mountain streams, I fell in love with everything clear and transparent: water, bubbles, glass, crystals, etc. These are personal sources of enjoyment, adventure, and good feelings that I had growing up and they are a treasure trove of high-quality inspiration.

Heritage inspires through cultural significance. But again, I am not referring to the culture of the masses (although there is plenty of influence from those sources as well). I am referring to the culture of you, your own personal culture. In my family, whenever we went to the river for a swim or to go fishing or to pan for gold, we always roasted hot dogs on a stick. I remember the smell of the wood burning in the campfire and the anticipation it formed as we got closer to the camaraderie of sharing with and nourishing each other. That is an example of personal culture formed within my own lifetime.

The Hippie movement was alive and well in my teens and many of the their aspirations helped to form my own personal culture of sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

Heritage is a product, place, feeling, memory, etc., that evokes a nostalgic sense of tradition or history within your psyche. I grew up watching Indiana Jones movies and fell deeply in love with the adventure of that pseudo-archaeology. Treasure became a staple in my psyche because we searched for gold in the rivers of California and followed in the footsteps of those early gold miners.

You have a heritage that is uniquely your own. Through memory you can trace it. And it’s guaranteed, as you do, you will be inspired. God once asked me to make a list of everything I love (once I woke up from the dream I was having) and She told me to make sure it was only the stuff I love, not like. This is the best exercise to trace your heritage, because as you go back in your memory to find the things you love, you feel the feelings that all those things evoke. Those things and feelings are a part of who you are. Embrace your heritage and it will reward you with inspiration in spades.

What Does it Mean to Be Found & Altered?

Adventurous

In the lyrics of the famous gospel hymn, Amazing Grace, there is a line that reads: “I once was lost, but now am found”. I can relate to that. And I can take it a step further to say I was also altered. I believe we’re all Found & Altered to an extent.

We find ourselves, our true, authentic selves. It is the self not subject to peer group pressure. It is the self whose freedom is paramount to public opinion.

We get altered, first by social indoctrination which teaches us herd mentality. But we are further altered through our intuition and insight by finding our way back out of the labrynth into the clear, diamond-sharp light of our best, most genuine selves.

Now that we’re back, what do we do with our capricious, headstrong, rebellious selves?

We get to witness the fun and great magic of the world thru the act of creation. We get to join the Found & Altered School of Craft for Wayward Adults!

Why Someone Had to Invent the Found & Altered School of Craft for Wayward Adults

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We currently don’t have air-conditioning. There are still holes in our ceiling from a Hickory tree that fell on the roof earlier this summer. Neither my wife nor I have sufficient income to pay our bills and it scares us at a deep level. We’ve shared our plight with the world thru facebook and GoFundMe and people have stepped up to help in big ways. We are grateful and we are faithful.

While the sacred space of our home is in disrepair, those are merely setbacks. Everyone has them, and ours really can’t hold a candle to some.

The hardest lesson in my life has been how to bounce back after a disaster. You know, be resilient and carry on living life. Now at age 58, I am discovering that learning how to bounce back is not going to help me if I don’t practice what I’ve learned. So now I am practicing.

I want to give adults the permission to be like kids again and to feel the exuberance and nirvana of creation.

My calling in life has always been creation. I love creating things. Don’t we all? I just happen to love it “in spades” (more than anything). And from the first time a kid on the playground gave me half his m&ms, I have believed that sharing is the ultimate thing a person can do. A way to create and share the act of creation with others has been sprouting and growing in me for decades.

But Dad told me NOT to become an artist because they starve. And society told me that only one in ten-thousand artists ever succeed at making a decent living. So I struggled (unnecessarily) because I bought into those beliefs without testing them.

Can I make a decent living by creating and sharing how to create? Will I really starve?

I’m ready to test those beliefs now and practice my calling. I’m ready to share the enthusiasm, the inspiration, and the tips and tricks of the trade. I want to teach people how to make things.
I want to give adults the permission to be like kids again and to feel the exuberance and nirvana of creation. I want to give affordable workshops that actually lift a person’s spirit and give them an awesome adventure! I want to explore the opportunity for us to join together and experience the great magic of the world through the act of creation. It is time for the wondrous plant of this idea to finally burst out in full bloom!

Such are just a few of the elements that brought into being the Found & Altered School of Craft for Wayward Adults. Come and learn how to be like a kid again! Bring your lost self to a workshop and see how you get found (and altered). And while you’re here, let’s talk about your calling.

Congratulations!

BabyInHands

A creative project is a baby…

It is first conceived by a loving relationship with the source of ideas. The idea wants to be born and thru a process of gestation, where the idea remains in the womb for a time so that it grows and gathers strength, it will be nurtured and tended to almost without your conscious attention.

There will come a time when the idea gains the amount of strength it needs to come out into the world. Sometimes there are complications, but everything is done to painstakingly make sure the idea survives the birthing process.

Eventually the idea comes to fruition and exists in our midst. We admire it and protect it and nurture it further so that it will one day leave our company and go out into the world on its own.

You are a creator, pregnant with ideas you’ve not yet discovered. They will come thru you your entire life. There is no menopause for ideas or creative projects. But if you recognize your sacred role in bringing them about and revel in their arrival, you will enjoy the process beyond your wildest dreams again and again.

Congratulations!